Category Archives: Cookbook

Quick dinner: Frittata with radicchio, onions, and mozzarella

Quick dinner: Frittata with radicchio, onions, and mozzarella

6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 medium onion
1/2 head of radicchoi
1 large slice of good crusty bread cut into 1 inch cubes
a handful of grated Parmesan

Preheat the broiler, and on the range heat up a 10-inch nonstick fry pan with a little bit of olive oil. Slice the onion thin and the radicchio into 1 inch strips and throw in with the oil to soften up. While they’re cooking covered over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, take a large bowl and beat together the eggs and milk. Add some salt and pepper to taste and then throw in the grated cheese and the bread. When the onions and radicchio are done, throw them into the bowl as well, stir it up, and pour that back into the pan.

Using a wooden spoon (or something that won’t scratch your nonstick), gently stir the egg mixture while it cooks, constantly scraping the bottom gently to allow the runnier parts of the egg mixture to contact the pan. When the consistency reaches something like pudding (still a bit looser than runny scrambled eggs) take it off the heat and scatter the handful of Parmesan across the top.

Now put the pan under the broiler until the Parmesan browns. Depending on your oven and your broiler this could take just couple of minutes, or a while longer. Just keep checking it until you get nice scattered browning of the cheese. Take it out of the broiler and let it sit on the stove for a couple of minutes to let it set. Then slide it out of the pan and onto your cutting board, cut into wedges and serve.

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Upside-Down Hot Fudge Sponge Pudding

This is a very very easy, no work, no fuss recipe that satisfies the need for a chocolate dessert without a lot of trouble. It came out of a book called Puddings A to Z. I believe this was the U for upside down. If I were to make it again, I think I would add a bit more chocolate though.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup, light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/4 cups water or black coffee

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 1/2 tbs cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the 3/4 cup sugar, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture and then spread the batter in a baking dish (a pyrex pie pan works well).

Whisk together the brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, and 5 tbs cocoa and then sprinkle on top of the batter.

Gently pour the water or coffee over the top of the whole thing and put it in the oven for 35 minutes. The batter will rise, the liquid will sink and combine with the sprinkled sugar and cocoa to make fudge sauce, and you’ll be eating chocolate in no time.

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Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Cut Loaf

UPDATE: Having made this bread many many times now, there are a few things I have noticed. The original published recipe creates a dough that’s just a little too wet and salty for my liking. Instead, I measure by weight and use the following ratio:

Dylan’s Bread ratio:
15 oz bread flour
12 oz warm water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of active dry yeast

Try and have your dutch oven in the middle of your oven. If the oven rack is too low, the bottom will be a bit warmer than the 450 and will blacken a bit. I’ve done this a couple of times be accident and thought that we would have to cut off the bottom crust. Not so. It was still pretty darn good, though it didn’t look as pretty.

Lastly, I’ve tried sprucing this up a bit with flax meal, or whole wheat flour or whatnot. The problem is that this bread is so good in it’s basic form, that variations tend to diminish it. In general, for other flours, substitute between about 3 and 5 oz of flour for another type of grain meal and it should work out O.K.


Apparently the internet is all abuzz about this bread recipe, published in the New York Times food section. My father, constantly in search of food-based knowledge to impress me with, brought the recipe to my attention, and then tried to execute it while I was recently visiting him in New York. The results were not what he expected, but I’ll get to that later.

Firstly, as stated in the name of the recipe, there is no-kneading involved in the making of this bread. I know what you’re thinking. “Whaaaaaaa????” Yeah, me too. For those who have never made bread before, or have made it only once and gave up because it was a pain in the ass, this seems like a very attractive notion. For those who have made bread a fair bit, this seems a bit strange. How can impart the crumb with the appropriate texture, how can the bread achieve the structure it needs, without a bit of elbow grease, or at least the dough hook on a kitchenaid? The answer is has to do with the science of gluten and how crossbridges are formed and broken, and I will go into it more at a later date because it’s actually pretty interesting. For now though, I’ll just say this, the key is to make a fairly wet dough with very little yeast and then let it rest and rise for a very long time.

The second important thing to know about this recipe, is that it uses a dutch oven. Baker’s ovens are much better at trapping moisture than home ovens. Steam in the oven is part of what makes bread crusty. Also, contact heat from baking stones, or a really heavy pan can do the trick. The dutch oven, particularly if it’s enameled cast iron, can do both. The Dutch oven is preheated and therefore serves the same purpose the baking stone. The lid of the dutch oven traps the moisture that leaves the loaf as steam surrounding it, and gives the bread an incredible crust.

So, with that in mind, the recipe is as follows.

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups flour
1 5/8 cups warm water

Throw everything in a large bowl and stir it together to mix. It will form a wet dough. Mix it enough to make it more or less evenly textured, but don’t worry about it to much. It should look something like this:

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Cover it and let it it rest for 18-24 hours. Yes, overnight. It will get little bubbles in it, and when you check it, may look a little fallen. Something like this:

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Then, take it out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands and form it into a round loaf and rest between two floured sheets of wax paper (sprinkling some bran flakes on the loaf and helps prevet it from sticking to the paper). Let the round rest for about an hour and a half, then preheat the oven to 450 degree for about half an hour, with a dutch oven inside. Take the dutch over out, flip the dough into it, cover and put it back in the oven. After half an hour, take the top off to let the crust brown. After another 15 minutes, take the loaf out of the oven and let it cool for about 30 minutes before cutting.

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It’s really good.

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Amaretto Ice-cream

This was a quick throw-together to pair with the pear upside down cake, but it included a new, lower-fat ice cream base, so I’ll mention it here.

Recipe:
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 extra-large egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto

Put the half and half in a saucepan and heat it up until it simmers. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together vigorously. It helps to do this in a heavy bowl as you’ll see in a minute. When the half-and-half simmers pour it into the egg mixture. You want to do this in a thin stream, while you continuously whisk the eggs. Take the saucepan in one hand and the whisk in the other and you’ll get the hang of it. The heavy bowl is it doesn’t get too squirrelly on you while you try and whisk it without hold the bowl.

Pour the mixture back in the saucepan now and continue to whisk the mixture over low-medium heat making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you do this. You’re trying to make sure that none of the egg cooks out of the mixture and sticks to the bottom of the pan. To do this, you want to keep the mixture as homogeneous as you can, mixing it to keep the temperature even throughout. When the mixture reaches 190 degrees, take it off of the heat and stick the pan in a bowl of ice water. You don’t really have to do this, but I’m always paranoid about cooking out the eggs, so once I get the custard to thicken, I try and cool it is quickly as possible.

Put the mixture in the fridge or freezer until it’s pretty cold but not frozen. Throw the Amaretto in, give it a good stir, and then put it in your ice cream maker. Enjoy.

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Pear Upside-down Cake

pear cake

As the name implies, this cake is baked with the pears on the bottom and then flipped onto a plate. The pear and caramel mixture is something akin to the apple bottom of a tart Tatin and recipe is, in fact, only a slightly adulterated version of the Barefoot Contessa’s tart Tatin recipe.

I served this on Tuesday night with an Amaretto ice cream and two different guests shamelessly scraped the plate for crumbs afterwards. I take that as a good sign.

Overall Rating: 9

Recipe for the bottom:
2 ripe pears
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

I think the toughest part of this recipe is making the caramel. For some reason I have a bad habit of burning caramel, but this process works for me. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat. You may swirl the pan gently, but do not stir it. Do not stick anything into it, except a candy thermometer, if you have one. When it gets to a nice amber color, or about 360 degrees, take it off of the heat immediately. It will take a while before it starts to change color at all. It will simmer for a while and you’ll wonder if it will ever get any color at all, and then all at once it will start to change, and you’ll worry that it’s not dark enough, but once it gets golden throughout, turn it off.

Butter the bottom of your baking dish. I like a fluted pie pan for this. Peel the pears, halve them, core them, and then slice them thick. Arrange the slices on the bottom of the pan and then gently pour the caramel syrup over it.

Recipe for the cake:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle. If you don’t know what that means, it’s the process of beating them together for a bit until they got sort of fluffy and glossy, like icing. With the mixer turned all the way down to low, add the eggs one at a time, then add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. The batter should be nice and even at this point.

Measure the flour, baking powder and salt and sift them together. Add them to the batter and mix briefly. Once the baking powder hits the wet ingredients, it is going to start making little bubbles. You want those bubbles to stay trapped in the batter and make the cake rise once it’s in the oven. If you keep mixing the batter after the bubbles form, they will sort of fizz out of the batter and the cake won’t rise. So, mix it only enought to get the wet and dry ingredients combines and then stop.

Pour the cake over the fruit and smooth it out evenly. Bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden. Take it out of the oven and set it on a rack for 15 minutes or so to cool down and set. After that, loose the cake by running a knife or spatula gently around the sides and then invert it onto a serving dish. The easiest way to do this is to turn the plate over, cover the cake with it, grab the two together and then flip them as one. Remove the baking dish and you should be all set.

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Fresh Fig Pizza

fig pizza

Clearly, our household is enamored with figs right now. ‘Tis the season, and some generous friends have given us a bounty of figs from their neighbors yard (if it hangs over the fence its fair game). So, we decided to try fig pizza and the results were unbelievably yummy.

The pizza had onions, gorgonzola, ricotta, and a balsamic reduction to pair with the figs (the reduction stood in for sauce), and the resulting pizza was suprisingly well structured considering that it had no obvious binder. The lack of sauce probably helped with that.

The pizza dough recipe came from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook: The Best Recipes. What they describe as dough for 1 medium pizza was plenty (the recipe makes dough for three), and the remaining dough can be frozen or used to make foccacia.

My Rating: 9

Recipe for pizza:
1 medium pizza dough (recipe follows)
8 or 10 fresh figs, sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
4 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese
8 oz fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 of a medium onion sliced paper thin
hefty drizzling of balsamic reduction (recipe follows)
Olive oil for the pan.

Start by placing your pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and cranking the heat up as high as it will go. Pizza stones hold a lot of heat and it takes a while to get them hot, so you have to do this early. It’s going to want to heat for a good 20 minutes. You’ll turn the oven down when the pizza actually goes into the oven, but the stone will cook the crust a bit hotter from underneath.

Let the pizza dough rest on the counter a bit. Any time the dough gets hard to work with, or seems to spring back when you try to stretch it out, let it rest a little.

Roll out the pizza dough to be about 2 inches larger around than your pizza pan. The best way to do this is to flour everything well and then roll lightly with a rolling pin, flipping the dough over and turning it 45 degrees each turn (if you turn it 90 degrees, you’ll make a big rectangle. a big octagon is closer to a pizza shape).

Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the pizza pan you will be using. This will help the outside of the crust get a nice, almost fried crispiness. You don’t have to do this, but it does help. Spread the oil around and then place the pizza dough over the pan. It should be bigger than the pan. That’s good. Roll the extra edge in to make the crust. Cover the pan with a dish towel and let it rise for about 15 minutes.

Now, top the dough with everything else in the recipe. Have fun with it. Place the pizza pan in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. It should take about 20 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it. You want the crust to be nice and golden and the cheese on top to begin browning a bit too. When the cheese gets golden, you know you’re done.

Let the pan rest on the counter for at least 5 minutes before cutting it. Trust me on this one, it will hold together a lot better.

How to make a balsamic reduction:
I find this easiest to do in a stainless steel omelette pan. The large surface area for evaporation and the reflection on the bottom make it easy to see how thick the liquid has become. The basic process is a matter of simmering down a bunch of balsamic vinegar (medium heat), and then usually adding a little bit of sugar at the end. You should reduce the liquid by about three quarters (1 cup of balsamic –> 1/4 cup of reduction). If it starts to look too thick, you can add a little bit of fresh balsamic to thin it out, and sweeten with a sprinkle of sugar.

Pizza Dough:
This is a basic pizza dough recipe that appears in a number of cookbooks. This version is from America’s Test kitchen.

1/2 cup of warm tap water
1 teaspoons of yeast
1/2 cup of room temperature water
1 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of bread flour
3/4 teaspoons of salt

Put the warm water and the yeast in a measuring cup and let the yeast proof for 5-10 minutes. It should foam. Add the rest of the liquid to the measuring cup. Put the flour and salt in a food processor and let it run for about 30 seconds. With the machine running slowly pour the liquid through the feed tube. Once the dough comes together into a single ball, stop adding the liquid. I know there is a temptation to add all of the liquid and see what happens, but the dough will be wet and hard to work with if you do.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form it into a ball. Put that ball of dough into a very lightly oiled bowl and roll it around so that the outside of the dough is slightly greased. The reason for doing this is so that the skin of the dough doesn’t dry out as it rises. If the outside dries out, it will resist expansion and retard the rising process.

After the dough has doubled in volume (1-2 hours), press it down (traditionally it’s called punching it down), turn it out onto a floured work surface and you’re ready to go.

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Variations on a theme: Oven-baked Fig Pancake

pancake

We were so excited about the peach pancake that we decided to experiment with a slightly different method, and with different fruit. The results were considerably different, though still very tasty. Using a heavy cake pan instead of skillet seemed to have the most impact. With straight sides, the rising batter climbed right up and formed a shell. Also, I think the height of the sides had the effect of sheltering the top of pancake from circulating hot air. It came out well, but wasn’t quite as exciting as the peach pancake.

To accompany it, I made a simple cinnamon custard.

Overall rating: 5

For the pancake recipe: Oven-baked Peach Pancake

Substitute quartered fresh figs instead of the cooked peaches, and a cake pan.

For the custard:
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk everything together in a metal bowl set over a pan of bowling water. Stir constantly until mixture thickens (about 10 minutes for me).

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